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Friday, June 25, 2004

Good Things Come in Threes

There is a saying that "All Good Things Come in Threes". Now I don't know how accurate that rule is but it certainly was this morning's theme in Prospect Park.

Big Dave hasn't spent much time photographing the hawks this season due to serious back problems. He's been feeling well enough lately that he decided to meet me this morning. It also helped that he's been trying to find an active flicker nest for a few years and I enticed him with a "definite" photo opportunity.

I met Big Dave near the Binnen Waters as he was setting up his camera gear. A few minutes into our conversation I heard a flock of alarmed birds near the horse path a short distance west of us. We walked over and located one of the adult Red-tailed Hawks perched near the back of the recently renovated pond. Dave snapped off a few shots then we started walking back in the direction of the flicker nest. As we were walking I heard the whiny calls of a young Red-tailed Hawk near Center Drive. I was excited as I figured that it was the fledgling from the Ravine pine tree nest. I had only been able to get brief, obstructed views of that nest and wasn't really sure how many young hawks were hatched.

Center Drive runs passed the south edge of the Midwood forest. It is a short flight from the Red-tailed Hawk nest in the Ravine. It is in that area where I located last year's fledgling from that nest. When Dave and I walked out onto Center Drive we immediately spotted the source of the cries. Perched in a huge White Oak overhanging the road were not one or two fledgling hawks but three! My first thought was, how the heck did they all fit in the nest at the top of a pine tree. Then I wondered, how did I manage to overlook them. Two of the young raptors looked pretty large and the third was noticeably smaller and still sported the rusty throat and breast of a younger bird. The most vocal of the hawks was hanging her wings down as Sean and I observed Alto doing on Wednesday. One of the parents flew overhead and deeper into the forest. Two of the fledglings followed.

I showed Dave the flicker nest up above the Midwood but there didn't seem to be any activity in the cavity when we arrived. He set his tripod and we waited. While we were standing around I spotted four or five Tufted Titmouse foraging above us. I put my bins on then and saw one adult titmouse being pursued by three fledglings. One young bird stopped on a branch and sat fluttering its wings - titmouse body language for "feed me". I continued to scan the tree tops above the Midwood for any other bird activity and spotted something that made me do a double-take. Foraging at the top of a large Black Locust tree was a Blue-winged Warbler. This beautiful songbird has obviously lost his map to the breeding grounds.

Eventually, the adult male flicker arrived at the nest hole and three heads immediately popped out. As the father fed his brood I noticed that all of the young now have the characteristic black bib and red "V" on the back of their head. Their head and necks still have a bit of down feathers but it shouldn't be long until they fledge. We stayed for three feedings and a dispute with a neighboring Downy Woodpecker then walked over to Sullivan Hill to find Alto and Bebe.

Hungry flicker brood

(Photo credit - Dave Klang)

Our morning had been going so well that I shouldn't have been surprised that we immediately found Alto. He was standing in the middle of the sidewalk near the puddle. Dave was able to get very close to the young hawk and, as he did, Split-tail flew in and perched above us. Alto was playing with some leaves on the ground and completely ignored us. Bebe must have been close by because there was a group of agitated robins calling to our right. We couldn't stay much longer so after Alto ran down the path and flew up to a low perch we left the hawk family in peace. With nine Red-tailed Hawks in the park I don't think that they will be doing the same for the rodents.

Alto near the mud puddle

(Photo credit - Dave Klang)
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Prospect Park, 6/25/2004
Red-tailed Hawk (3 adults, 5 fledglings.)
Chimney Swift
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3, Midwood.)
Downy Woodpecker (2 Midwood.)
Northern Flicker (Midwood. 2 adults, 3 nestlings.)
Eastern Kingbird (Several.)
Red-eyed Vireo (Payne Hill.)
Black-capped Chickadee (2, Midwood.)
Tufted Titmouse (Midwood. 2 adults, 3 fledglings.)
House Wren (Nethermead Arches.)
Wood Thrush (Male singing at Rick's Place, another singing in Midwood.)
Gray Catbird
Cedar Waxwing (Several.)
Blue-winged Warbler (Foraging at the top of a locust tree in Midwood.)
Common Grackle

Other resident species seen (or heard):
Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, House Sparrow

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